There’s a man sitting on a cardboard box in front of Will’s Memorial Building in Bristol. I bought him a coffee and a sandwich and asked if he minded me sitting down. He shrugged. It was awkward and my offering a roll-up did little to break the ice.
His name is Shaun and he is over from Wales for a change of scenery. After telling him of my hopes to get some ideas about happiness he mumbled, “I don’t really know” and gave another apathetic shrug. I tried to eke out some profundity but Shaun seemed truly incapable, perhaps unwilling to provide me with any consequential opinions.
I asked Shaun if everyone has equal potential for happiness. “Yeah” he muttered from beneath the heavy hood that was largely concealing his gaunt, weathered face. He fell silent again.
As we finished our roll ups it dawned on me. Not only was I trying to get blood out of a stone, but I was bothering this man. I said goodbye and got an “Alright mate” in response. Walking away I wondered if asking bewildered people big questions would always lead to nothing. I can’t be sure. I do know that you can’t expect to buy insight for the price of a sandwich and a coffee.